"Hey, check out my new hat," my pal Hornyak said. "I thought it was a second when they gave it to me." Jon was wearing a souvenir ball cap he'd gotten at a recent music convention. It was a nice shade of blue, but the brim was frayed, and there were several holes in the fabric. Yep, pre-worn-out. Nice. War is peace. New is old. Very Orwellian.
This is nothing really new, of course. Catalogs and magazines are full of ads for "weathered cotton" shirts, "stone-washed chinos that feel like old friends," "unconstructed" blazers, and wrinkly khakis "the color of road dust." I don't think Abercrombie & Fitch makes anything without holes.
It wasn't always like this, though. There was a time in our history when the pendulum of fashion swung far, far away into a magical land called Polyester, a land where people wore plastic-looking clothes in vivid shiny colors with white stitching around the edges. These clothes did not wrinkle; they hardly even bent. Sport coats were the texture of a thin-crust pizza. Pant creases could cut you. White plastic belts could blind you. Clothes were not "weathered," they were "perma-prest."
But after a couple of years, the designers noticed that people were starting to look a bit like 1959 Oldsmobiles, all angles and fins and weird bulges, and they decided that maybe we'd gone just a little overboard on the whole synthetic clothing thing.
Thus did the fashion pendulum begin its long and ponderous swing the other way, to the world we enjoy today, a world of natural-fiber wonderfulness. The stores are now full of clothing that is wrinkled, faded, frayed, weathered, torn, and generally beat-to-crap, thus saving us the trouble of having to do it ourselves. This has the advantage of keeping us from looking like 1959 Oldsmobiles. Unfortunately, we now look like trail mix.
But I've seen signs that change is in the air: colors that aren't quite natural; fabrics that stretch; no-iron shirts; the continued existence of Amy Winehouse.
If this trend continues, we may have to start wearing out our own clothes again. Just sayin'.